Money and Finances
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How To Deal With “Begging Bowls”

“The world does not owe us a living. We cannot live by the begging bowl.” – from the late former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew from his book “From Third Word to First”

Have you experienced people messaging you on social media, texting or calling you, asking to borrow money and promising to pay it soon or sometime in the future? Have you let someone borrow your money and even after many years you haven’t seen any cent of it? Have you even been harassed or verbally abused for not giving them what they want?

You’re not alone. Many people are struggling these days that some resort to borrowing money from banks or other companies that provide any kind of loan you can think of. These companies charge really high interest rates and a timeline or deadline to pay it off. So because of this, others turn to friends and family for financial support. For one, there’s no interest charges, unless they themselves are in the money lending business. Second, the belief that “It’s family and friends anyway so I can just delay the payments whenever I want to.”

Now, I’m not against asking help from your own family when you really desperately need it. However, whenever anyone asks money from family, friends, former classmates and work colleagues for money, common sense or ethics dictate that the borrower should pay it back as soon as possible or within a few months. Whether in installments or lump sum, it doesn’t matter. Whatever you agreed on at the start. Otherwise, my friend, that is asking for trouble. The people who never pay that money back may not be concerned about what’s happening with the lender’s lives. The lender can always message them on social media, beg and plead all they can. Unless the borrower already has a proven track record of paying money back, some people will always assume that they will never see a cent of it.

The “begging bowls” are looking out for people who they think are kind-hearted enough and believe in helping other people. They may also look for people they know who are now based overseas, thinking that “Oh, they have lots of money now, I should ask if they can let me borrow some of that.” Now this kind of thinking may have started when people went abroad and send care packages to their loved ones, what Filipinos call “pasalubong.” It usually contains food,   branded clothes and accessories. And because of this, other people may have been led to think that people working overseas are really rich.  What they don’t realize is that every person who goes abroad wants to have a better life for themselves and their families, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they actually have a better life. Some of them are working in jobs they didn’t have university degrees just so they can set their foot in another country and get settled, while others might want to move to a country where they are more free to be themselves. People in their home countries probably don’t realize how many sacrifices and hardships these overseas workers had to go through to get there. And to ask for money from them is just plain rude. In the First World countries most people are taught to be independent from day one, and so they are where they are now because of their self-reliance, creativity, proactiveness, and the ability to always find solutions to their problems, financial or otherwise.

Another type of “begging bowls” are those on the streets putting out boxes, hats, or any containers for cash and coins. Religious teachings do mention about giving alms to the poor, but be very careful with this because there are some people who will take advantage of your kindness. There are others who, even after giving them food or money, demand something else or more than what you initially gave them. In one article, people from China were recruited to pose as monks to ask for donations; another mentioned beggars eating at five-star restaurants. Especially to those who are in a religious organization, be careful where and who you give your money to.

Now, if you suddenly become a target from people asking for sponsorships or to simply borrow money, simply say No. If they still insist, then just be firm yet kind at the same time to say No. The reason being you prefer to keep the friendship instead of it being broken in case the money is not paid back. Just like the people trying to promote anything to you while traveling. Just say No. They might get angry (and they will) but just be firm yet kind in saying No.

For those who have experienced not getting any cent of the money back, let this serve as a lesson for you to be very careful whom and where you give your money to. If you can write a contract for them to sign, let me know if it works. Otherwise, just don’t do it again.

My own photo

My own photo

For those who are planning on borrowing money, whether from banks or from close friends and family:

1.) Start looking at where you can cut expenses and transfer that amount into your savings fund

For example, if you love your coffee fix in the mornings at Starbucks or any coffee shops, for $4 or $5 each day of spending, in 365 days it adds up to $1,460. Even if you’re only drinking it a few times a week, lets say three times a week, it still adds up to more than $500 a year. The previous amount you can actually pay for a round-trip ticket to your dream destination, a new phone or laptop, anything you’ve been wanting to have.

2.) New things like phones or computers come out every one or two years, so try to accept what you have now and only buy when the item is beyond repair.

Apple has iPhone launches every one to two years, Samsung does the same. All clothing stores introduce new styles every season. I mean, do you have to buy a new phone every time it comes out to the market? Do you have to be in the latest fashions just to get the so-called “styles of the season”? Mind you, some of those styles have been reused for decades. They are just redesigned to lead customers to think they are new. Also, do keep in mind that these companies are there to earn more money than last year and so they will release new things and “brainwash” you to think you need to buy a new phone, for example, when in fact there are only very few new features they’ve added.

3.) Request for more hours at work, do another part-time job, or do a part-time business

Many people do two or three jobs a day just to pay off their bills and feed their families. If they can do it, so can you.

4.) Read books or articles on how people managed to save their money.

It really helps to learn more strategies from other people who’ve been in the same predicament as you but now are able to tackle their savings and financial goals. So take advantage of the advice readily available at your nearest bookstore, library, or the Internet on your computer or phone. If there are money management seminars in your area, take advantage of it. Otherwise, ask for recommendations.

5.) Look at your own wardrobe, cabinets, or closets

Chances are you have clothes you only wore few times or still have tags on them. If that’s the case, maybe it’s time to clean out the closet and separate which ones you can donate to charity and which you can sell online or through garage sale. Not only will you help other people find new clothes to wear, you have a little bit more to save.

6.) Watch the inflows and outflows of your money through your bank statements, whether on paper or online

7.) Every time you’re tempted to buy a new item or try something new, ask yourself whether you really, really need it right now. Try sleeping on it for a night. Then you will know the answer.

8.) Lastly, starting your savings for the first time seems difficult, but it will get easier once you see and feel the benefits

The first time is always the most difficult because of procrastination, of the need to keep the status quo, the need to stay in the comfort zone. However, if you really desire that next trip or new phone or anything you wanna save up for, there’s always a way to reach that goal. Start small, then go big when ready. Learn the art of delayed gratification.

This entry was posted in: Money and Finances


My name is Charica Roche, a writer, food lover, adventure seeker, color addict, and curious-driven person who truly believes in personal and spiritual growth. Writing helps me become a better person because it makes me feel grounded and it encourages me to be honest about things. Currently based in New Zealand, I'm constantly searching for and following my curiosities through books, art, music, dancing, and other aspects of a life well-lived through my own terms.

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